Primary account in new Outlook: how to change and why it matters

Learn the nuances of setting the primary account in the new Outlook app and its impact on your privacy and licensing policies.

The management of multiple mailboxes in Outlook is a crucial feature for professional users. At the heart of this multi-account functionality lies the concept of the primary account. Understanding what a primary account is and its significance is vital for staying in control of your email communication.

Note. The information in this article is accurate at the time of writing. As Microsoft frequently updates the new Outlook, we cannot guarantee that all features and settings will remain the same. Please refer to the latest documentation and updates from Microsoft for the most current information.

Primary account in the new Outlook

Primary account in the new Outlook app is essentially the main email account that takes precedence over others in terms of default settings and primary use. This account is typically the first one you set up when configuring the app, and it acts as the central hub for most of your email activities.

The primary account is important because it controls the baseline policies and determines the default operational parameters of the entire Outlook app.

For work and school email accounts, admins can set the organization's account as primary by using Set-OwaMailboxPolicy. This allows them to configure app-wide settings for their users, such as theme, diagnostic data and connected experiences, ensuring a consistent and secure environment for the organization.

Key functions of primary account in the new Outlook

  • Default email address. The primary account is the main account for your Outlook experience. It is the default email address used for sending emails (unless you navigated to a secondary account beforehand) and managing various account-specific configurations within the app.
  • Settings and preferences. Many of the app-wide settings, such as theme, layout, text size and diagnostic data are tied to the primary account.
  • Ability to install and use apps. The installation of apps from Microsoft AppSource is only possible when a Microsoft 365 work or school account is designated as primary.
  • Privacy policies. The primary account sets the default privacy and security settings, influencing how data is managed and protected. This includes optional connected experiences, optional diagnostic data, analyzing and downloading experiences.
  • Licensing. The primary account determines the license that applies to secondary accounts. This is particularly important for users with Microsoft 365 work or school accounts, as the primary account's license dictates whether these mailboxes can be set up and utilized within the new Outlook app.

For more information, please see Core aspects of the primary account.

How to change primary account in new Outlook

If you have several mailboxes in the Outlook app, then you can make any account primary unless this setting is restricted by your administrator.

To change the primary account in the new Outlook for Windows, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Settings (gear) icon in the top right corner of the Outlook window.
  2. In the Settings menu, go to Accounts > Email accounts.
  3. Find the mailbox you wish to set as the new primary account and click Manage to the right of it. Manage an account in the new Outlook.
  4. Under Account details, click the Set as primary account button. Change the primary account in the new Outlook for Windows.
  5. A confirmation message will appear. Click Continue to proceed. Click Continue to proceed.
  6. Review and apply additional settings. Depending on the type of account you're setting as primary, Outlook may present additional screens.

    These screens can inform you about the required diagnostic data collected by Microsoft: Information about the required diagnostic data collected by Microsoft.

    Also, they may prompt you to take a decision regarding sending optional diagnostic and usage data to Microsoft. (You can always change your preferences later in Privacy settings.) Choose whether to send optional diagnostic and usage data to Microsoft.

    For third-party accounts like Gmail, Outlook might ask if you want to apply your current language, time, and theme settings from Windows. Choose to Apply Settings if you agree or Skip if you prefer not to. Confirm if you want to apply your current language, time, and theme settings from Windows.

  7. Once you've completed these steps, the new Outlook for Windows will restart using the new primary account.


  • If the Set as primary account button is disabled or appears grayed out, it indicates that the selected mailbox is either already the primary account in your Outlook or the ability to change it is disabled by your administrator.
  • The primary account change applies only to the device you are on. If you have multiple devices, you can set different primary accounts on them.

Core aspects of primary account in new Outlook

Given the significance outlined above, it's essential to choose your primary account wisely as it will play a pivotal role in your overall Outlook experience. Below, we will delve into each aspect of the primary account in more detail, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of its functions and management.

Default email address

When composing a new message in Outlook, the primary account's email address is automatically used as the default sender. If you wish to use a different account, you can manually select an alternative from the From field or go to any folder of a secondary account before starting a new email. Changing the From field to another mailbox causes a new compose window to open with the selected account, preventing any accidental actions on the wrong mailbox. The primary account's email address is used as the default sender.

Primary account display

On opening the new Outlook app, the primary account is prominently displayed as the first account on the left pane, complete with its full list of folders. Secondary accounts are initially collapsed, showing only their email addresses without the folders, which may require additional clicks to view new emails in them. Primary account display

To view all inboxes at a glance, you can add them to the Favorites section, which will then be displayed at the top of the folders pane for easy access. For detailed instructions, see How to view multiple inboxes in the new Outlook.

Default for account-specific configurations

When you're configuring account-specific features like email rules, they typically default to the primary account. However, it isn't always the case - this behavior can vary depending on how you access the settings.

For instance, if you go to the rule settings via the Settings gear icon > Mail > Rules, the changes you make will apply to the primary account, no matter which account was active prior to this action. Account-specific settings in the new Outlook default to the primary account.

On the other hand, if you switch to a secondary account first, and then navigate to View tab > View Settings > Mail > Rules, the same Rules menu will appear, but the rules you set will apply to the secondary account you're currently using.

The key takeaway is that when configuring anything in the new Outlook, always check which account the settings will affect and switch to a different one if needed. This ensures that your configurations are applied to the intended mailbox and prevents any unintended changes to other accounts.

Access to AppSource and add-ons

Your ability to install add-ons from Microsoft AppSource is determined by the primary account. In the new Outlook, the Apps button is only available if a Microsoft 365 work or school account or a personal Microsoft account with an active Microsoft 365 subscription is set as primary.

Should any other account be primary (including Microsoft's accounts like or Hotmail, or third-party ones such as Gmail or Yahoo), the Apps button will disappear from all your accounts (even from secondary Microsoft 365 enterprise accounts) rendering any previously added add-ons inaccessible.

Additionally, please be aware that in the new Outlook any add-ons are account-specific. Therefore, if you have multiple work or school accounts, you will need to add the relevant add-ons for each account individually. To install apps from AppSource, set a Microsoft 365 work or school account as primary.

Privacy settings for different primary account types

The primary account determines the privacy settings for the entire new Outlook application. You can find your privacy settings under Settings > General > Privacy and data. Privacy settings in the new Outlook app.

Here's how your privacy options can vary depending on the primary account's choice:

Microsoft 365 work or school account

These accounts, often provided by an employer or educational institution, come with the highest level of security and privacy measures. Depending on your organization's policies, your ability to control certain privacy settings might be limited.

If your organization permits the use of optional connected experiences provided by cloud-backed services, you have the discretion to enable or disable them. However, if your organization restricts this option, then your privacy settings are managed by your administrator.

  • Optional connected experiences – these are additional experiences that utilize information from various Microsoft-owned online services or integrate it directly into your Outlook app. For example, the Weather Bar on the Outlook calendar that offers quick access to weather forecasts is powered by MSN Weather.
Turn on or off optional connected experiences in Outlook.

Learn more about Optional connected experiences in Microsoft 365.

Other accounts

Email accounts, such as, Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud and other, are typically used for individual communication. With a personal account set as primary, you'll have greater control over your privacy options in the new Outlook. Specifically, you can enable or disable optional diagnostic data as well as services that download or analyze content.

  • Optional diagnostic data. This includes additional information about the app setup, usage, performance, and device connectivity. If you opt to send optional diagnostic data, it will be collected in addition to the required one. For more detailed information, see Optional diagnostic data for Office.
  • Analyzing experiences. These are connected experiences that analyze your Outlook content to provide you with data insights, recommendations, and other features like suggested replies. Here's a full list of connected experiences that analyze your content.
  • Downloading experiences. These experiences allow you to search and download online content including calendars, locations, maps, images, etc. For more information, see Connected experiences that download online content.
Privacy settings for personal accounts in the new Outlook.

By understanding how privacy settings are influenced by the primary account, you can tailor your Outlook app experience to suit your personal or organizational needs.

Note. All these settings apply only to the new Outlook app and the device you are currently using.

Licensing policies in multi-account scenarios

The primary account plays a crucial role in scenarios involving multiple Microsoft 365 enterprise accounts. In some cases, organizations may assign several email addresses with different licenses to their users. The primary account set in the new Outlook will determine the licensing terms for any additional secondary accounts. Here's how it works:

  • Single account. If you have just one Microsoft 365 work or school account that does not include the right to the desktop apps (e.g. Business Basic or Enterprise E1), you won't be able to integrate this account into the new Outlook. For more information, see Microsoft 365 account lacks desktop app license.
  • Multiple accounts. If any of your Microsoft 365 organizational accounts is licensed for desktop usage (e.g. Business Standard or Business Premium plans), you can add that account to the new Outlook and make it primary. This will "extend" the desktop app license to your secondary accounts, allowing you to add any other work or school accounts irrespective of their individual licensing statuses.

So, by choosing a primary account with the appropriate license, you can ensure that all your other accounts get the benefits of its extended licensing, leveraging full functionality within the new Outlook.

For more details, please visit How licensing works for work and school accounts.

Which account to set as primary?

When deciding which email account to set as your primary in the new Outlook, consider the following recommendations:

For work

If you primarily use Outlook for work-related communications and tasks, setting your work account as the primary can be beneficial. It ensures that your work emails and calendar events are front and center, aligning with your professional priorities. Moreover, work and school accounts grant access to the Apps button, which allows for the installation of add-ons from Microsoft AppSource.

If one of your organizational accounts includes a license for the Microsoft 365 apps, choosing it as the primary could extend those benefits to your secondary work or school accounts.

However, please keep in mind that work or school accounts often come with additional security measures provided by your organization, which might limit your ability to modify certain settings.

For personal use

If your personal email is the main communication platform, designating a personal account (like or Gmail) as the primary might be more convenient. This allows for a more relaxed approach to privacy settings, which you can adjust to your preference.

Balancing work and personal

If you manage a balance of work and personal communications in Outlook, consider which account you access more frequently. Some users prefer to have their work account as the primary to stay on top of professional commitments, while others might choose their personal account to keep work-related stress at bay during off-hours.

Ultimately, the choice depends on your individual needs and how you use Outlook. Consider the balance of convenience, privacy, and functionality that each account offers before making your decision. Remember, you can always change the primary account later if your needs or preferences shift.

Key takeaways

  • The primary account in the new Outlook app is the cornerstone of your email experience, influencing the app-wide settings, privacy, and licensing policies.
  • The primary account's email address is the default sender when composing new messages, but you can easily switch to other mailboxes as needed.
  • Account-specific settings, such as email rules or forwarding, default to the primary account, but it's important to verify which account a particular setting applies to when making changes.
  • Access to apps and add-ons requires setting a Microsoft 365 work or school account as primary.
  • Privacy settings are determined by the primary account, with different levels of control for work/school and personal accounts.
  • Licensing for secondary work or school accounts is dictated by the primary Microsoft 365 organizational account.
  • Changing the primary account is a simple process, but it may be restricted by your organization's administrator.

As we wrap up our exploration of the primary account in the new Outlook, it's clear that this feature is more than just a technicality – it's the command center of your digital communication. Choose it thoughtfully, weighing your workflow and priorities, and make the most out of your email experience 😊

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